M A I N   N E W S

Left Rejects UNPA Plea
Pratibha can breathe easy
Satish Misra
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 21
With UPA presidential candidate Pratibha Patil resigning today as Rajasthan Governor, decks are clear for her now as the Left and ruling alliance constituents strongly rejected the UNPA's move to get incumbent President A P J Abdul Kalam a second term and both the opposition alliances unable to decide the future course of action on the presidential issue.

While NCP chief Sharad Pawar, on whom the newly constituted UNPA was heavily banking upon, said the match is over for him (Kalam) and expressed confidence that incumbent will not enter the fray, the Left parties made it clear that their decision to support Patil was "final and irreversible".

A meeting between UNPA leaders and former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee remained inconclusive because there were serious differences on the course that the NDA and the Third Front should adopt in face of the overwhelming strength and unity within the UPA and the Left.

It was decided that the NDA and the UNPA would meet again tomorrow to chalk out the strategy and future course of action. Our aim is to defeat the Congress. We have to work out all other aspects. The discussions will continue, BJP leader Jaswant Singh said after the meeting.

We are discussing only Kalam, TDP chief N.Chandrababu Naidu said when asked whether the question of third front supporting Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat in the President's election was discussed.

Before the meeting of the NDA and UNPA leaders tomorrow, it is understood that a delegation of both the parties, either together or separately, would meet Kalam.

While both the BJP and UNPA maintained that they were only discussing Kalam, sources said they also discussed other options, including fielding of Shekhawat as the presidential candidate.

Earlier Pawar, after signing Patil's nomination papers, said he (Kalam) will not be at the crease. So, he will not be in the game. He will not be a player. Pawar, who also heads the cricket control board, told reporters after signing Patil's nomination papers.

The match is over for Kalam ... We do not expect the game to be started again. We are very clear about that, Pawar said.

I know him. We have worked together and he will not be there (in the fray), said Pawar, under whom Kalam served as scientific adviser when the former was defence minister.

Describing Kalam as an honest person, the NCP chief said, however, it was a pity that a person occupying the highest post had suddenly started talking of a contest after having declared he was not interested in anything.

Pawar took a dig at Kalam for saying that he would contest if he was sure of victory. In a democracy, anyone interested in public life can contest Lok Sabha elections from whichever constituency one likes. But one cannot say that he will contest only if he wins, he said.

The CPI and CPM leaders conveyed their strong view to UNPA leaders Chandrababu Naidu, Mulayam Singh Yadav and others when they called on them at their respective party headquarters.

During 30-minute-long meeting with the CPM leaders at the A.K Gopalan Bhavan, the newly floated third front leaders were told categorically that "there is no question of reconsidering or looking back as Ms Patil is the unanimous choice of the UPA, supported by the Left, BSP and other parties".

CPI General Secretary A.B Bardhan told the UNPA leaders, when they called on him at Ajoy Bhavan to plead for a second term for Kalam, in no uncertain terms that there is no question of "reconsidering position" on the presidential poll.

The CPI leaders said they had cautioned them against "getting involved in the BJP's ploy".

The UNPA leaders, however, maintained that they were not disappointed with the decision of the Left parties.

We will appeal again and again as the demand for a second term for Kalam reflects the national mood. There is no politics. This is a national mission, Samajwadi Party chief Yadav said.

After signing the nomination papers of Patil, Rashtriya Janata Dal chief and railway minister Laloo Prasad Yadav said "Kalam should resign gracefully as it is too tate for any reconsideration on the issue".

The RJD chief accused the third front and BJP of insulting Kalam.

BJP has always deceived the nation. Now they are confusing the whole scenario (presidential poll), he said.

Questioning Bhairon Singh Shekhawat's decision to contest as an independent candidate, he said again BJP is deceiving... How come Shekhawat is an independent candidate from RSS.... ...He wants to contest the election independently....But their defeat is certain, he said.

Earlier in the day, the UPA candidate received support beyond the ruling coalition when Rashtriya Lok Dal chief Ajit Singh signed Patil's nomination papers.

In an interesting revelation, Dasmunsi told mediapersons that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had conveyed the to the President on behalf of the government and supporting parties that about having decided about their candidate.

Taking exception to the use of the word "certainty" by Rashtrapati Bhavan in the context of a second term for Kalam, Dasmunsi said it was unfortunate that such words were being used.



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